Senate Committee approves legislation affecting federal workers

A Senate Committee advanced legislation affecting collective bargaining related to information technology and creating a quick process to consider the Administration’s reorganization plan.

hands on computersToday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a business meeting and advanced legislation that would: provide so-called fast-track authority for congressional consideration of the Administration’s government reform plan; establish a rotation program for cyber professional in the federal government; and prohibit bargaining on adverse impacts on employees from agency IT decisions, in addition to other bills.

The bill of primary concern considered today by the Committee was S. 3208, the Federal Information System Safeguard Act, introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), which would eliminate collective bargaining on any IT issues. Under current law, an agency head is responsible for ensuring that all personnel are held accountable for complying with the agency-wide information security program. Further, by law, federal employee labor organizations cannot bargain over an agency’s IT actions or decisions. Instead, as you are aware, they are limited to bargaining over any resulting adverse impacts to employees. Such limited bargaining is even allowed to occur post-implementation in emergencies. This legislation is of even greater concern now, in light of the recent Executive Orders issued by the President in May, since it could allow agencies to block labor organizations from using any IT system to conduct their lawfully permitted representational duties and from communicating with their members. NTEU sent a letter in opposition to the bill.  In Committee, the bill was amended to mirror the language passed earlier by this same Committee in the 114th Congress (2015-2016), passed by voice vote. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) recorded votes in opposition to the measure.

Binary codeNTEU also objected to a provision in S. 3437, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2018, which would have eliminated collective bargaining rights of employees detailed to another agency related to cyber-security. Senator Peters offered an amendment that removed this language, which was approved, and the Committee passed the bill, as amended, by voice vote. NTEU was particularly concerned about setting a precedent for future legislation to simply waive Chapter 71 of title 5 United States Code and is appreciative of Senator Peter’s successful efforts to strip out this harmful provision.

In addition, NTEU expressed great concern over S. 3137, the Reforming Government Act of 2018, which would provide a process to allow Congress to quickly consider the Administration’s plans to reform the federal government. NTEU National President Tony Reardon has testified on this issue and submitted testimony to House and Senate Committees expressing concern over the lack of involvement of frontline employees and their representatives as well as citing the mistakes of past reform efforts that led to increased outsourcing or reduced the number of federal workers. However, a particular problem with the current Administration’s proposal is the lack of details about the costs and benefits of the reorganization, whether legislation is needed to implement certain changes, and what the impact such changes would have on employees and operations. After adopting an amendment offered by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) that requires, among other things, five members of the minority party in the Senate as co-sponsors of the reform plan or a 60-vote threshold (a significant threshold to reach) to advance the reform plan, a cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, and a description of how agencies and the Office of Management and Budget will measure performance of the implementation of the reorganization plan, the Committee approved the bill, as amended, by voice vote.

As Congress continues to look at the Administration’s reform proposals, Tony will continue to push for additional information to ensure that employees’ views are taken into consideration and that federal workers have enough information to understand the impact such changes would have on them. Furthermore, NTEU will continue to work with Members of both the House and Senate to prevent legislation that restricts employee collective bargaining rights, and communication with members, from becoming law.

I will keep you updated on any developments.

Author: chapterpresident

I have worked in the FDA since 1990 in a variety of positions. I currently serve as chapter president of NTEU Chapter 254, representing FDA employees in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.